Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Molecules of Food!

Today in class we started looking at the molecules (and ions) that make up food. We're going to spend a few days looking at these so we can relate the behavior of macroscopic foods to the microscopic molecular changes that take place during food preparation. We'll look at 4 main groups:

Water - Most food is mostly water. Most of life (as we know it) is mostly water. Water is a tiny molecule that is bent, so one end has a more negative local charge and the other end has a more positive local charge. {That last part's not a bad definition of "polar".} This makes water molecules stick together. (Opposites attract...) Water dissolves things that are charged or polar.

Inorganic components - salts, minerals, and a few other assorted bits.

Small organics - In this case, "organic" means "containing carbon-hydrogen bonds". The term has taken on a variety of other meanings in food, but we'll stick with the "C-H bonds" definition. These can include things like vitamins, metabolic products, and other bits & pieces.

BIG organics - Lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, DNA/RNA - These are all much bigger molecules.
Lipids - These are fats, mostly composed of triglycerides. The length and "saturation" of the long fatty acid chains in triglycerides define their properties. The longer and more saturated the chains are, the more effectively they can pack, meaning that they are often solids at room temperature. Unsaturation (double bonds) can put some "kinks" in these long chains that can significantly affect their properties.
Proteins - Proteins are polymers composed of amino acid monomers. The central carbon in an amino acid has an amine group (-NH2), a carboxylic acid group (-COOH), a hydrogen (-H), and a 4th group that varies (the "sidechain"). The hydrophobicity of the sidechain determines the structure of a protein, and the structure of a protein determines the function of the protein. Proteins are the workhorses of biochemistry/biology.

We'll get to the others next week. Don't forget the quiz in D2L and enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Syllabus posted

The syllabus is posted:

The schedule of topics is not set in stone, so I have not included a lecture schedule on the printed syllabus. I hope to adjust the topics (somewhat) to match the interests of the people taking BCBT 100 this semester. I will put lecture schedule information up on my web page {} for BCBT 100 with notes here. Is there an aspect of food and cooking that you have always been curious about? Let me know and we might be able to include it in class.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


We'll be using On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (2004) as a text for this course. It's available at the MSUM bookstore, but it's also widely available online if you prefer to get your books that way. I found it on,, and a bunch of other sites for $26-30 as either a hardcover or an e-book. It's a nice book to have on your shelf even after this class.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Welcome to BCBT 100!

Welcome to the BCBT 100 - Science of Cooking class blog. I'll post class announcements and information here as well as answers to general questions I get by email. This blog allows anonymous comments.